B.C. food bank gets $7M for warehouse as it struggles with abundance, not scarcity

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NANAIMO, B.C. — The head of a Vancouver Island food bank says the problem it's been grappling with in recent years isn't scarcity — it's abundance.

Peter Sinclair, executive director of the Loaves and Fishes Food Bank in Nanaimo, B.C., said the group needs more space to deal with the volume of donations it receives, as it works to meet a "dramatic increase" in demand for its services.

it is, however, the preferred problem for an organization that distributes food to those in need all over the island, much of it recovered from retailers who would otherwise dispose of it.

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The British Columbia government announced Thursday that it's kicking in $7 million toward building a new 25,000-square-foot warehouse for Loaves and Fishes to enable the non-profit to scale up and expand its offerings.

Sheila Malcolmson, minister of social development and poverty reduction, told a news conference that food price inflation has put intense pressure on both individuals as well as non-profits that provide food bank services.

Malcolmson said Loaves and Fishes' work is crucial to food security on the island, especially in remote communities, as it provides goods that would otherwise end up in landfills through its food recovery program.

"This new warehouse is going to help them reach more people who need support and help families and people who are challenged to put good food on the table," she said.

The new facility is to be built on land leased at a negligible cost by the City of Nanaimo.

Malcolmson said the funding comes from the B.C. government's $200 million investment in food security initiatives announced earlier this year.

Sinclair said the group has had to turn away donated food due to a lack of capacity to receive it, a problem the new warehouse would hopefully solve.

"Most recently we had access to over 200 pallets of nacho chips. We were able to accept 90 of those pallets," Sinclair said. "What you do with 90 pallets of Nacho chips? It's a challenge, it is a problem, but we will take that problem every single day over the problem of not having enough."

Sinclair said the new facility is critical to expanding their operations, but acknowledged that the provincial funding is not enough to complete it.

He said the group is working with the federal government in hopes of securing an additional $5 million to "bring this to completion."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2023.

The Canadian Press